Miriam's Well: A Modern Day Exodus
A novel to be released on Passover (March 30) 2018, Ice Cube Press
ISBN: 9781888160970, $21.99, 575 Pages
Help me bring Miriam's Well: A Modern Day Exodus, my forthcoming novel full of music, meals, and miracles to you through a book tour across the United States. There's great perks (copies of the novel, bundles of books, even poems or a song written for you at the Indiegogo Campaign.
In this modern day retelling of the Exodus, Miriam wanders the political and spiritual desert of a changing America, torn between her roots as the Jewish daughter of a Black father and white mother, her yearning for home, and her brothers Aaron and Moses. Beginning in the middle of the 1965 New York City blackout, when stuck in the pitch-black subway somewhere in the East River, Miriam's family encounters a mysterious rabbi, who persuades the family to go to Israel where the family is caught in the 6-Day War. The losses from the war break apart the family, scattering Moses to western Kansas to live with evangelical Christians, Aaron to New York City to practice corporate law, and Miriam all over America. An astonishing cook and singer, Miriam has a knack for showing up to feed and help people at at landmark events, including People's Park during the Summer of Love, the Wounded Knee encampment in South Dakota, the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, the Oklahoma City terrorist attack, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. As she seeks the promised land, she shows her people, and eventually herself, how to turn the chaos and despair of our times into music, meals, and miracles.
The novel also includes over 35 pages of real recipes from the fictional cooking and baking Miriam does throughout the book, including delicious dishes from Nancy O'Connor's The Rolling Prairie Cookbook, Jayni and Frank Carey's The New Kansas Cookbook, Janet Majure's Recipes Worth Sharing, and Meg Heriford of the Ladybird Cafe.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's retelling of Exodus is a sprawling tapestry, woven of all the threads of a modern-day Miriam's ancestors, and her own present and future. From the Badagry Point of No Return and a sukkah in the Sinai Desert to a series of camps, communes, and cafes all across America, Miriam's Well delves into the mystery of how we find our place in the world, within our families, even within ourselves. ~ Bryn Greenwood, New York Times bestselling author of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
I fell in love with Miriam’s wisdom and her sweet engagements with the people she meets along her lush and vibrant travels. I was plunged to the depths of her nightmares, soared with her song, and emerged blessed to have made the journey with her. Miriam’s Well is the latest terrific book by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. ~ Jocelyn Cullity, author of Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons
Miriam’s Well is truly a hearty feast, and a song of life’s bounty, of its “fragile miracle,” of its sorrows and its cycling, its joy, its mystery, its sorrows, its journeying. The vibrantly moving and compelling storytelling is immediate, intimate, and resounding; bringing us into a complex weaving of tales, told and untold, from the Biblical epic to the painful legacy of United States, which frame the story of one brave woman with an inexhaustible well of caring. Daughter, sister, lover, neighbor, friend, mother, Miriam is one extraordinary ordinary woman whose life is emblematic of our absolutely interdependent web of relationships, physical and metaphysical, over the seasons of a lifetime and the histories of our own time. In Mirriam-Goldberg’s rendering of the web of story that is Miriam’s, Aaron’s, Joseph’s, Moses’, and our own, we are brought into the gift of tenderness and compassion in heartening human response to our historical conundrums. The work is big hearted, embracing, and wonderfully embodies love’s plenty and the power and the beauty of the story, the song, the telling, to remember and transform us. ~ Gale Jackson, author of Put Your Hands on Your Hips and Act Like a Woman: Song, Dance, Black History and Poetics in Performance
Miriam’s Well is a page-turner that gently pulls the reader into the heroine’s quest while also chronicling the country’s cultural revolutions, gastronomic recipes, political causes, women’s communes, spirituality, the AIDS crisis, Oklahoma and Twin Tower terrorist attacks. A compelling writer, Mirriam-Goldberg’s Miriam’s Well captures a quintessential American story, its multitude of nations, of immigrants and indigenes, in the quest towards a meaningful national identity. ~ Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, Professor of Theatre, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Kansas
This startlingly insightful and quietly confrontational novel by poet Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg courageously inserts the biblical prophet Miriam into many of the most daunting and provocative ethical conflicts since the early 60's civil rights revolution, as though we are Israel after the Exodus from slavery and before the Promised Land. Mirriam-Goldberg’s story calls on readers to consider "Have I done enough?" and "What is it that the Lord requires of you?" A surprising page turner featuring multiple plot twists and turns, the moral challenges and clarity deserve more than attention, they demand debate. Do yourself a favor and share it with friends. ~ Rabbi Mark H. Levin, author of Praying the Bible
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg brings back the charged days of the 1970's revolutions and their aftermath in the decades to come in her novel Miriam's Well. For those of us who lived through those times, the book is a reminder of their importance. ~ Thomas Pecore Weso, author of Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir.
Cover painting - Setting Sun, Platte River Near South Bend - by Anne Burkholder, artist and owner of Burkholder Gallery, Lincoln, NE
Chapter One: Brooklyn, New York, August, 1965 (excerpt)
Miriam stepped into the ocean, waiting for the next wave, bracing herself although she knew that balance was useless when the water had its way.
“Mimi, you just go in all at once to get used to the cold. It's the only logical strategy,” Aaron called out as he strutted past her in his baggy swim trunks. But when the water rushed high over him before he was ready, she saw the fear in his eyes as he doggie-paddled back toward her. The undertow streamed between her ankles, and she stepped in farther, her father walking into the water steadily, one step at a time, just like her.
Aaron was 13, she was 14, but most people thought they were twins, both the same height and small for their age, sharing the same face although Aaron’s was much darker and more freckled. Their difference showed most in their hair: Miriam's was dark brown, smooth and curly, “white hair,” her mother told her, and Aaron had a short, pale brown afro.
Soon Miriam and Odin, her father, were used to the temperature and rhythm. “Here's another one,” she would tell him as they both jumped at the exact moment, sea water spraying their damp faces. Aaron had zoomed his tiny figure back into the water and was now trying to swim laps, overcome by each new crescendo. At one point, he disappeared and stayed disappeared as Miriam counted to 10, waiting for him to pop up. Odin threw himself forward, determined to save his son.
The two people Miriam loved most were in the sea. Which way to swim, and who to save first? The undertow tugged at her ankles, and with all her force, she leapt in, swimming harder than she ever had, keeping her large eyes open in the tumble of bubbles in the green-brown haze of moving water.
When she rushed upward, gasping for a breath, she saw Aaron, waving and smiling crooked at her. “You look like you've got to get somewhere fast,” he called out, thinking it was a joke.
She turned her head so fast to each side that she felt her neck quiver. “Dad!” she screamed.
Aaron's expression changed on a dime. Both of them dove under, swimming frantically, looking for their father, who they knew loved the ocean but didn't move as quickly and easily as they did. They popped up at the same moment, looked around, panicked, and went back under. For Miriam, that stretch of time confirmed what she always knew would happen. Her heart beat so hard she was amazed she could swim.
Then, skirting the bottom of the sea in the still-shallow sands just beyond where the waves broke, she felt something brush her foot. Nothing there, but two words that wrapped blessing around her: “Not yet.” She surged back to shore, looked far to the left, and there was Dad, standing on the beach. He had been pulled in by the undertow, and spit back out again, but in a different place. She signaled Aaron, and they sped like fish until the waves poured them at their father's feet.